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2012 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD Review By Carey Russ

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2012 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD

Volvo owned the premium wagon sector of the U.S. automotive marketplace for years -- until its XC70 crossover replaced its V70 wagon. The V70 continues elsewhere. Here, sales overwhelmingly went to the XC70, to the point that not enough wagons were being bought to keep them economically viable.

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Be careful with that "crossover" word here, though. Volvo tentatively joined the crossover frenzy in model year 1998 with the V70 Cross Country, also called the V70 XC. At that time it was more of an appearance package on a V70 wagon than a completely different model, but by model year 2001 the Cross Country got a lengthened wheelbase and widened track compared to the V70, and substantially-increased ground clearance. And, of course, the then-de rigueur SUV lower cladding to complete the look.

It was a hit, with a then-unique combination of European luxury comfort and all-season, all-conditions ability in addition to the versatility of a wagon. With the addition of the XC90 "real" crossover for 2003, the Cross Country was renamed XC70. The taller but smaller-footprint XC60 came later, so the XC70 now sits in the middle of Volvo's crossover lineup, and is the most wagon-like of the group.

And the XC70 really is more wagon than crossover. Its lower height means lower center of gravity, for better handling characteristics. Access to cargo carried on the roof rails is easier. If its lower height implies less cargo space, not really. How often are crossovers loaded to the rafters?

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Changes to the XC70 for model year 2012 are small but important. Viewed from the outside, nothing has changed. Inside, though, is a new dashboard with the "Sensus" information management display system, a redesigned center console, changes to lighting, and revamped trim levels from major option packages, now called Premier, Premier Plus, and Platinum. The two versions, both with transversely-mounted inline six-cylinder engines, are the 240-horsepower naturally-aspirated , 3.2 liter XC70 3.2, with front- or optional all-wheel drive and the XC70 T6 AWD, with a turbocharged and intercooled 3.0-liter engine boasting 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The transmission for both versions is a six-speed automatic.

There's something else new, and not readily visible. That would be the Polestar performance software upgrade, originally offered for some T5 five-cylinder turbo engines and now available for 2011 and 12 XC60, S60, and XC70 models with the T6 engine. For the T6, horsepower is boosted by 25, to 325, and torque by 30 lb-ft, to 354. Power is increased only when needed for acceleration, so fuel consumption is not adversely affected.

My test car, a well-equipped XC70 Platinum, was so-equipped. The shortest and most potentially hazardous highway onramps were no problem, nor were hills on the highway or backroads. Ride and handling were car, not crossover. And with no attempt at maximum fuel economy I still got a 21 mpg average for a week with as little highway droning as possible. Plus all the comfort of a Volvo, all the space and versatility of a mid-size wagon, and no worries about poor road surfaces or the odd chunk of debris thanks to 8.3 inches of clearance.

APPEARANCE: Broad shoulders that continue forward to frame the iconic V-shaped hood and a rounded trapezoidal eggcrate grille with the diagonal Volvo "ironmark" make the XC70 instantly identifiable. Textured plastic cladding around the lower perimeter and the wheel arches adds the crossover look -- and also protection against minor incidents, whether shopping carts in a mall parking lot or brush and rocks on a dirt road. Bright trim around front foglamps, rear backup lights, and on the lower bumper fascias adds interest. Full-height taillights make the XC70 visible and identifiable at night. Plastic coverings under the engine and transmission are less off-road "skid plate" than on-road aerodynamic management.

COMFORT: It's pure Volvo inside, meaning a Scandinavian Modern design and wonderfully comfortable orthopedically-designed seats. The most apparent change is in the center of the instrument panel, where there is now a secondary hood over the Sensus seven-inch color screen display, a welcome improvement over the earlier pop-up screens. It displays information for the audio, navigation, and vehicle information systems. The interface is a little quirky but mostly logical. Audio inputs are AM, FM, and XM radio, plus CD (and MP3CD) and external players via jack or USB. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming is standard across the line.

Interior materials are first-rate, with a soft textured anti-glare instrument panel top, walnut veneer trim on the IP and doors, and stitched leather seating, steering wheel rim, and shift knob. Visibility is good, and the BLIS blind-spot information system warns of vehicles in the side blind spots. Rear passengers, especially outboard, have plenty of space, and integrated child booster seats are available. The rear seatback folds 60/40, and with a near six-foot cargo floor seatback down, there is ample space for cargo -- or even a luxury car camping bivouac. There's a bit of organized storage space under the load floor, and a space-saver tire under that.

SAFETY: The XC70 has always had a sturdy safety cage around the passenger compartment, front and rear crumple zones, side-impact beams, airbags galore including the SIPS side impact protection system, and front seats with whiplash-reducing head restraints. Adaptive cruise control, the BLIS blind-spot information system, and a variety of electronically-based driver alert systems are also still available. The City Safety system, which uses electronic sensors to determine whether to pre-charge the brakes or automatically brake the car at low speeds and close distances, is now standard equipment in all XC70 models. Antilock disc brakes with brake assist, ready alert brakes, and fading brake support are further enhanced by the standard Dynamic Stability Control System.

RIDE AND HANDLING: At nearly 4300 lbs, the Volvo XC70 T6 is no lightweight. It feels, and is, solid, and its long-travel MacPherson strut / multilink suspension is tuned for comfort and moderate off-pavement ability, which is enhanced by the latest all-wheel drive system. I didn't have any opportunity to play in the dirt during my recent week, but have spent time on forest roads in XC70s in the past. No, it won't do the Rubicon, but a family camping trip to most National or State Park or Forest Service campgrounds should present no difficulty. Winter driving? This is a Swedish car! And the 8.3 inches of clearance and short overhangs mean that steep driveways, deep potholes, and other hazards of today's city life will be no problem.

PERFORMANCE: The 240-horsepower naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter engine will probably be more than sufficient for most XC70 buyers. If not, the T6's namesake turbocharged and intercooled 3.0-liter gives plenty of urge, with 300 hp (at 5600 rpm) and, more importantly, 325 lb-ft of torque from 2100 through 4200 rpm. Want more? Check the Polestar upgrade (factory "chip" job) for 325hp and a healthy 354 lb-ft and get one quick family hauler. Even with that, overdrive fifth and sixth gears in the six-speed automatic transmission mean that highway fuel economy is remarkably good. EPA estimates are 17 mpg city, 23 highway and with little concern for fuel economy and only moderate use of highways I got 21 for the week. The "distance to empty" trip computer display was amusing -- often when getting on to the highway after city driving, the estimate would increase, sometimes by quite a bit. No, the XC70 doesn't make gasoline, but it's a fine machine in which to use some to go a long distance. In comfort and safety. Need to tow a small trailer? With a 3300-lb towing capacity, no worries.

CONCLUSIONS: In T6 form and Polestar tune, the newest Volvo XC70 combines comfort, safety, and performance in an all-road, all-weather package.

2012 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD

Base Price			$ 39,100
Price As Tested			$ 49,070
Engine Type			DOHC 24-valve turbocharged and
				 intercooled inline 6-cylinder
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 180 cu. in.
Horsepower			325 @ 5600 rpm  (with Polestar upgrade)
Torque (lb-ft)			354 @ 2100-4200 rpm (with Polestar upgrade)
Transmission			6-speed electronically-controlled automatic with adaptive shift 
                                logic and "Geartronic" manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		110.8 in. / 190.5 in.
Curb Weight			4279 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.2
Fuel Capacity			18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				235/50R18 97V m+s Pirelli Scorpion
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, RAB, FBS, DSTC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance		8.3 inches
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 all-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 32 / 21
0 to 60 mph				6.8  sec
Towing capacity				3300 lbs.

XC70 Platinum Package -- includes:
  navigation with voice control, Volvo Premium Sound,
  rear park assist camera, power tailgate, keyless drive,
  front and rear park assist, HomeLink, grocery bag
  holder, 12v cargo area outlet, cargo cover, compass,
  electric folding rear headrests, private locking	$ 4,550
Climate Package, Child Seats, Dual Xenon Headlights
  -- includes:
  heated front seats, headlight washers, heated windshield
  washer nozzles, rain sensor, Interior Air Quality System
  (IAQS), dual two-stage child booster seats with power
  child locks, active dual xenon headlights		$ 1,800
Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)			$   700
metallic paint						$   550
HP Performance Enhance					$ 1,495
Destination charge					$   875